An executive at Amazon, the company known for its two-day shipping, fired back at late night host John Oliver on Monday after he slammed Amazon’s “brutal” working conditions, Business Insider reported.
During an episode of Oliver’s weekly HBO show, Last Week Tonight, Oliver aired a 20-minute segment in which he said the convenience of using the online shopping and streaming giant comes with a human cost.
“Because, think about it, we used to have to drive to stores to buy things. Now those things are brought directly to us and they’re somehow cheaper. That didn’t just happen with a clever algorithm — it happened by creating a system that squeezes the people lowest on the ladder hard and all the while, the man behind Amazon is now worth $118 billion, more than anyone else in the world.”
Specifically, Oliver mentioned reports of union-busting by the company and high levels of managerial control over employees. Oliver said the level of injury and illness at Amazon facilities is higher than that of other industries like coal mining, construction or logging, Deadline reported.
But the criticism didn’t sit well with Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of operations, who took to Twitter to defend the Seattle-based company and its treatment of its workers.
Clark mentioned Amazon’s nationwide $15 minimum wage and “comprehensive benefits” to refute Oliver’s claims. In follow-up tweets, the Amazon executive said he was “proud” of the company’s commitment to its facilities, and fired back at Oliver and his HBO show’s producers for not touring Amazon’s facilities prior to airing the commentary. Clark called Oliver’s portray of Amazon “insulting,” citing the “passion and commitment” of Amazon employees.
But people who responded to Clark on Twitter weren’t so convinced. One called Clark “out of touch.”
Another said Clark’s words showed his privilege.
This is not the first time working conditions at Amazon have been called out. Last year, Newsweek reported workers at Amazon facilities claimed they experienced unreasonable demands, including long work hours, limited and closely monitored bathroom breaks and pressure to work while injured.
Politicians have also weighed in on working conditions at the online retailer. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for president, renewed his attacks on Amazon in March and said that Amazon needed to do more to improve worker conditions beyond its $15 minimum wage, Bloomberg reported. In June, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for paying employees what she called “starvation wages.”
Amazon responded at the time on Twitter, saying the Democrat from New York was incorrect.